With Spring Training in their rearview mirror, the Washington Nationals now look forward to the beginning of the regular season. The Nats also see a solid team anchored on a splendid starting rotation, a strong bullpen, and a young core of players that look to make their mark in the league.
Let’s start with the backstop, now manned by Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki. Gomes, who spent his last six seasons in Cleveland catching for the likes of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, is expected to be the Nationals everyday catcher. He was an AL All-Star in 2018.
But you’d be better off not calling Suzuki a backup. Suzuki, who hit 12 home runs and brought in 50 RBIs last season for the Braves, could be the first option in many teams across the league. I’m confident that his participation in Washington will be closer to a platoon situation to keep both fresh.
In any way in which they’re used, Gomes and Suzuki will be a great offensive upgrade for the Nationals in 2019.
If there’s one thing Nationals fans are hoping for it’s health for Ryan Zimmerman. The team’s first baseman lost considerable time in 2018 dealing with a right oblique strain. That injury set him back ages, especially coming from a 2017 season in which he had hit for .303, with 36 home runs and 108 RBIs.
Zimmerman will be assisted by fan-favorite Matt Adams, who came back to the Nationals after a short stint in St Louis last year. Adams is expected to provide Zimmerman some rest at first and come in as a pinch hitter against right-handed pitchers.
The rest of the infield is rounded up with new-comer Brian Dozier on second base, Trea Turner on shortstop, and Anthony Rendon on third base. Wilmer Difo will be the first-to-serve backup to all three positions.
Spring Training surprise Jake Noll is the last infielder to make the Nationals’ Opening Day roster, after having a huge performance that impressed manager Davey Martinez. Noll hit for .314, with 2 home runs and 10 RBIs in 51 at-bats. He finished last season with AA Harrisburg and is filling in for Howie Kendrick who is on the disabled list.
Plenty has been said about the Nationals outfield. The trio of Juan Soto, Victor Robles, and Adam Eaton will man left, center, and right field respectively, and provide Washington pitching with stellar defense and speed. Difo will also be the Nationals backup outfielder as a response to Michael A. Taylor’s injury, which may keep him away from the field for a considerable length of time.
But it comes to no surprise that even with a well-rounded team improved in all positions of need, Martinez will rely heavily on his arms to get him to manage meaningful games in October.
If the Nationals starting rotation lives up to expectations and consumes a healthy amount of innings, closer Sean Doolittle and the rest of the bullpen should be successful at preserving wins this season.
And Nats Nation will be ready for the start of a new age in DC.
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